GW Law student threatens lawsuit against Hillel over terrorist allegations

A student accused of having links to terrorists is threatening to sue two prominent Jewish organizations if allegations against him are not dropped immediately.

Fadi Kiblawi, a third-year law student, continues to deny claims made in an e-mail sent last week over the Hillel listserv that he is a terrorist and associates with suicide bombers. The e-mail, which contained information apparently supplied by another Jewish group, urged Hillel members to protest a lecture given by Kiblawi March 30.

“It’s not easy to be called a terrorist,” Kiblawi said March 30. “It’s very unsettling.” Last week, Kiblawi also called the assertions “pure lies.”

Kiblawi said he has filed a complaint with University Police regarding the Hillel e-mails and thinks the case will be classified as harassment. The e-mails spawned outrage among some Palestinian and Israeli supporters.

Hillel Director Robert Fishman responded to the furor hours after the original e-mail was sent on March 29. He explained in a second e-mail that while he agrees with what was said in the first e-mail, the accusations leveled against Kiblawi did not reflect an institutional opinion. Fishman did not say whether he sent the initial e-mail.

On Thursday night several hundred students crowded into a Law School lecture hall to hear Kiblawi and columnist Will Youmans explain why they believe GW should divest financially from Israel. The two were critical of Israel’s checkpoints that restrict Palestinian travel, and they said the United States does not provide enough foreign aid to Palestinians. The U.S. government and other countries have scaled back Palestinian aid following Hamas’ overwhelming victory in the Palestinian legislature in January.

At the event, members and supporters of the Jewish Defense League distributed flyers that said Kiblawi has publicly said “kill the Jews,” and has also voiced a desire to “strap a bomb to one’s chest and kill.”

After the lecture, Kiblawi told The Hatchet that he was grossly misrepresented in the flyers and plans to sue the JDL and Hillel if they do not retract their statements.

On its Web site the JDL states “there will be no sanctuary for those who threaten or attack Jewish individuals or institutions.”

“He has one goal in mind and that is the complete destruction of the state of Israel, and we will fight him everyday and everywhere he speaks,” said Bob Turk, a U.S. director of the JDL. Kiblawi said last week that he supports a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which Jews and Palestinians would live under one democratically elected government. Population trends mean a one-state solution would eventually put Palestinians in the majority in Israel.

The JDL itself is not free from controversy – in 2003, Earl Krugel, a member of the group, pleaded guilty to federal charges related to two criminal conspiracies to manufacture and detonate bombs at a mosque in California. Krugel admitted that he conspired with JDL leader Irving Rubin, who committed suicide while awaiting trial. The JDL’s activities are severely restricted in Israel; its leader, a radical rabbi, was gunned down in New York in 1990.

Turk said the JDL’s accusations against Kiblawi stem from numerous statements they have from his articles and e-mails in which he has allegedly made anti-Semitic comments.

One such Kiblawi quote appeared in a 2001 Muslim journal, Al-Risalah, when he attended University of Michigan as an undergraduate. Kiblawi said the quotation was taken out of context.

While Kablawi does not deny that he wrote “to strap a bomb to one’s chest and kill,” he said it was part of a less-than-serious article that he titled “A perspective on Palestine while high on Vicodin.” Numerous Web sites about Kiblawi only include that phrase and do not place it within a complete sentence.

“In the article I had explained that Israel’s oppression has become so harsh that it has caused Palestinians to strap a bomb to one’s chest and kill,” Kiblawi said. “You’d have to be a complete lunatic to take it out of context and say that I wanted to do that.”

“It’s not that I wanted to do it, it was an observation,” Kiblawi said. Kiblawi was unable to provide a copy of the article.

“Never have I endorsed suicide bombing. In fact, I have always condemned it,” Kiblawi added.

As for the controversial e-mails the JDL attributes to him, Kiblawi said his e-mail account was hacked in 2002 and derogatory messages were sent from his address. Michigan launched a study of e-mail security following the mass e-mails sent from Kiblawi’s account, the school’s newspaper, The Michigan Daily, reported.

Turk said he welcomes a lawsuit from Kiblawi, who was arrested in 2004 for entering a closed Israeli military zone. He said he has not seen the 2001 journal article, but that he may be able provide a copy of it in the future.

“If there is an untruth directed at him, he could very easily pull us into court and sue us for slander” Turk said. “I’m inviting him to do that.”

Fishman, the director of Hillel at GW, said in an e-mail to The Hatchet that he does not see Kiblawi as a threat to the Jewish community. Fishman said Hillel has no affiliation with the JDL; Turk said in an interview that “we’ll do whatever is necessary to back Hillel up.” Fishman would not consent to a phone interview.

“It’s scary that this can occur on this campus where we like to think that free speech is promoted,” said sophomore Leila Taha, the president of Students for Justice in Palestine, of which Kiblawi is an active member.

“I hope that this incident will not be a detriment to activism on campus,” Taha added. “Hillel’s attempt to stifle speech through slander is not in anyone’s interest.”

Fishman said he respects Kiblawi’s right to be heard.

-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.

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